Tuesday, February 07, 2017

"Dining" on TAP Portugal

Normally when Ojan attends conferences, there is a good chance that I also need to attend, or, that the conference is in a city with a Google office that it makes sense for me to visit, so we often travel together and combine our trips.  This year however, he had a conference in Lisbon, a place I had never been, and, we did not have a Google office.  I missed out on his last few trips (to Japan and New York!) due to my work commitments, but this time, I was able to take a few vacation days.  I wanted a few days of summer!  I also knew about 20-30 others attending, and knew it would be a fun time to crash some of their evening activities.

But, it meant that this wasn’t a business trip for me, so, I was paying my own way.  I needed to get to Lisbon … cheap.  Thus, we flew on TAP Portugal.  In economy.

The boarding process in London was amazingly efficient and orderly.  They (gasp) board from the back of the plane first, which meant we were nearly last, but, just makes so much more sense.  Our departure time for the first flight was scheduled for 7:50pm from Heathrow, but amusingly, as we were onboard, we both got messages saying our flight had been changed … to 7:40pm!  Score, we were leaving earlier?  Except, we didn’t.  We left the gate then, but spent a long time out on the runway with no communication from the flight crew.  We took off at least half an hour late.  I still don’t know why.

The return flight from Lisbon was the opposite.  Boarding was late, a total mass free-for-all, and somehow we still took off on time and arrived early.

Anyway, yeah, TAP.  I was flying a generic, lower-end airline, on intra-Europe flights, with flight times of less than 2.5 hours.  Thus, I knew to set my catering expectations accordingly.

Flight #1: Snack Service

Flight: TAP 367, London to Lisbon
Departure time: 7:50pm
Meal Served: Snack
Snack Box: Sandwich, Mango Juice.
After we got underway, the trolleys came through with basic soft drinks, coffee, and tea, and … our meal.  There were no choices.  I tried to order vegetarian online before the flight, but it said that choices are no longer offered in economy.  However, others on the flight got them, and when I asked, the attendant told me I needed to do it in advance online.  Hmmph.

The meal boxes were distributed without a word.  The writing on the wrapper was in Portuguese.  This was going to be fun!

And what did we have?

A little tiny drink, that was … mango puree?  Super thick, super sweet, like a smoothie I guess.  The consistency was too weird for me.

And, a sandwich.  A tuna sandwich, it turned out.
Inside the Sandwich.
The top piece of bread was very dried out and stale.  The bottom was less bad, as it was slathered with what I think was cream cheese, so it kept a little moisture.  The tuna, canned, flaked, cooked tuna, was on top of that.  Also in the mix were a couple bits of black olive, a single slice of incredibly unripe tomato, and literally 3 pieces of arugula, and one piece of basil.

This was so strange.  Tuna and cream cheese?  Tuna and mayo, sure.  Tuna and hard, sliced cheese, sure.  Salmon and cream cheese, sure.  But tuna and cream cheese was a new one for me.  Perhaps this is a Portuguese thing?

Anyway, the sandwich was gross, both Ojan and I sorta disected ours, and quickly moved on to the snacks we packed.  I was instantly very glad that I had decided to get a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from the vending machine (!) at the gate, as there was no dessert item in the meal (unless the mango juice counts?)

Flight #2: Lunch Service

Flight: TAP 442, Lisbon to Paris ORY
Departure time: 12pm
Meal Served: Lunch

On my first TAP Portugal flight, we were served what I thought was a meal, but turned out to just be “snack”. It was a pretty awful tuna sandwich with mango juice. Thus, I had no expectations for my next flight, and brought my own food.

Since the flight departed right at noon though, we were served lunch, a hot meal, even though the flight was only 2 hours. I wasn’t expecting that. As my first flight, there was no meal option, and it was plopped down in front of us without explanation.
Wheat Roll, Butter with Salt, Melon Bowl, Hot Meal.
The meal option was actually vegetarian for everyone: pasta. I was pleasantly surprised as pasta is one of the few things that I’ve had be decent in economy class on airplanes.

Also on our trays was a wheat roll with butter that Ojan and I both didn’t try as it looked stale, and dessert … a little pot of melon. Since I’m allergic I also didn’t have that, but Ojan said it was ok, not the ripest ever, but refreshing enough. I was glad I brought alternate dessert waiting for me.
Ravioli Shallot Cream Sauce.
"Pasta with tomato filling and shallot cream sauce."

The ravioli was tomato and ricotta cheese stuffed veggie pasta, small little raviolis. The filling didn’t really taste tomato as listed, but you could see it was a radish-pinkish color.  It had a good ricotta flavor and the pasta itself wasn’t horrible, not mushy, not hard.

But my meal was lukewarm at best, actually kinda cold. This is in contrast to Ojan, who had a piping hot one, and he was seated next to me, complaining about how it was too hot. Inconsistent.

So, the ravioli itself was … fine, nothing special, but edible.

But you know me, I’m a sauce girl, and um, shallot cream sauce!!! This had promise.  The sauce was ok.  I didn’t really taste shallots, but, it was cream sauce, and it wasn’t totally bland. I lapped up the sauce eagerly, and used some of the other food I brought to dunk into it once the ravioli was gone.

More surprising was the tomato sauce. There was only one spoonful, but, it was actually really good, it had big chunks of tomato, was slightly sweet, and well, I liked it.  Random, but quite good.

So, overall, certainly not fine dining, certainly not amazing, but, for an economy class meal, really not bad.
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